Climactic climbing: Steep steps power you towards exhilarating experiences

Powder Matt

Climactic climbing: Steep steps power you towards exhilarating experiences


On an unusually cold October in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, craggy towers are all around me. The wind and my heavy breathing are the only sounds I hear.

Each step I labour forward tied to my rope friends, for a long glacier crossing. My objective pokes through the clouds, in the distance, my mind saying it would be easier to enjoy a cold craft beer on a deck ‘anywhere’ other than being here.

So, why do I love it? Because in today’s world, most everything is sterile, hustled, cleansed, and doesn't offer up the challenge I crave - both physically and mentally. Nor does regular life humble you in a big way like Mother Nature can.

Getting outside to climb - and I'm not just talking bagging peaks, but even more gentle trails up the side of a mountain are good for you.

So, I'm putting down the gauntlet, here and saying get out there and get some mountain time this summer.

Getting started

If you're just starting out and don’t have friends who are super experienced climbers, no worries, you can contact your university outdoor program like the University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre. It offers numerous climbing courses all summer. Or, check with a variety of private guiding services pretty much anywhere in Canada.

Life is short

Powder Matt

Life is about balance. Steady footing is the foundation of a good day crossing a creek or tackling a day at the office. Mosteller considers his footing crossing a stream on the approach to Mount Joffre in Kananaskis Country, Alberta

As the hours pass when you're climbing or hiking the extremes, you develop an intense feeling about your surroundings, both from a safety perspective, perhaps watching for an avalanche, or a crevice. But the highlight is always the awe factor. Every step makes a difference and you appreciate it more than ever as you make progress towards your destination.

My mountain time helps me in every day life and I often slip back into mountain mode to ensure that I am fully engaged in what I am doing. Being in the now reminds me that time is precious. This way you don’t waste it but rather focus on each step, not only to accomplish things, but more importantly to be in the moment and relish each experience.

Get your gear in order

Powder Matt

Proper gear is important to have. Safety and comfort are key to any ascent. Mosteller is prepared for the trek on Mount Athabasca, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Don’t worry about getting all the gear when you're first starting out, because usually your course or guide service will provide you with what you need. You can easily rent it at places like Mountain Equipment COOP or the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre. It's best to try out gear before you buy because fit is so important, especially when it comes to climbing boots or your helmet.

Get your sleep

Most climbs start early, as in 4 a.m. to avoid rock-fall, avalanches, both caused by day-time heating. So, you'll need a good sleep to keep you strong and motivated. Enough said.

Getting inspired

Trying a new sport like climbing is good for you. Schedule it to make it happen because you'll not only benefit from the actual act of climbing, but the time leading up to it and getting pumped. Set aside some inspiration time by reading about someone's first climbing experience or watch one of th many YouTube videos about climbing. This will help keep the negative thoughts at bay if you're feeling a bit intimidated.

Powder Matt

What could possibly be better than sharing a conversation with good friends at the bottom of the ice wall on the north route up Mount Athabasca, Jasper National Park, Alberta?

There's really nothing stopping you, so get your climb booked and head for the hills.

If you go:

Check outdoor centres for courses to get you started.

The Outdoor Centre at the University of Calgary offers courses and rental gear.

The Yamnuska Centre in Canmore will get you started and offers easy to extreme adventures

Call the Yamnuska Centre ​​

The Alpine Club of Canada offers courses, camps and adventures and has 32 backcountry huts to camp in.